After a 30-month campaign to raise $1.6 million, the Montgomery County Lands Trust (MCLT) purchased the 78-acre Rogers-Hiester property, located south of Sumneytown on Route 63 in Upper Salford Township.
“This property was a ‘Critical Habitat’ acquisition," said Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Program Supervisor Carolyn Wallis in an MCLT press release. “It is an exceptional place that needed desperately to be preserved.”
The property is a gateway to the Unami Forest, a section of the nationally-recognized Pennsylvania Highlands, according to MCLT. It includes the convergence of two streams – Unami Creek and Ridge Valley Creek – and is in close proximity to the Green Lane Park and the Perkiomen Trail.
The landscape also features a 255-year-old brick old house, originally the residence of patriot and statesman Daniel Hiester, which was noted on the first official map of Pennsylvania in 1759.
“It’s a museum-quality house,” said Upper Salford Township Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Ted Poatsy, who was active in the preservation process on behalf of the township.
The property earned Montgomery County Parks and Heritage Services Department’s “highest priority” ranking for three decades, which attracted the MCLT, according to the press release. Over several years, the MCLT worked with property owners Charles and Maureen Rogers to develop a preservation plan.
“During a time when funds for open space are scarce, we are grateful to have partners recognize the significance of this project, one that combines protection of both natural and cultural gems,” said MCLT Executive Director Dulcie Flaharty in the press release.
The MTLT’s plan includes restoration of the Daniel Hiester House, the creation of a 75-acre park, and development of walking trails to connect the property with other regional trails and parks.
Funding for this project was raised through several sources, including $678,000 from the DCNR, $342,000 from Montgomery County’s Green Fields/Green Towns Open Space Program, and $150,000 from the Open Space Institute. The MCLT also raised more than $60,000 in community support, and Upper Salford Township contributed $20,000.
Upon the purchase, the land was transferred to Upper Salford Township and will remain a publicly-accessible park.
“We are doing the right thing to protect the past, and also to enhance the future,” said Poatsy, who was also instrumental in raising the private funds for the project. “We will put some trails in for residents, but we will keep the costs down.”